What’s the method acting technique

There are many types of acting and all have different histories and origins. But some require more work than others. What kind of work? Well, the preparation behind some of the most astounding acting performances we’ve seen, comes from the Method technique.


What is method acting?

Method acting is a technique or type of acting in which an actor aspires to encourage sincere and emotionally expressive performances by fully inhabiting the role of the character. It is an emotion-oriented technique instead of classical acting that is primarily action-based. It was further developed and brought to American acting studios in the 1930s by Lee Strasberg and Elia Kazan.

However, Konstantin Stanislavski, a Russian actor and theatre director invented the technique in the early 1900s. Stanislavski did not call it method acting back then, but his ideas created a model to help actors build believable characters. Stanislavski’s approach was to encourage the actors to draw from personal experiences and memories in order to garner real emotions, and to connect with the characters. This stood in stark contrast to the more traditional, theatrical and classical acting of that time.

Famous method actors

  • Marlon Brando
  • Robert De Niro
  • Heath Ledger
  • Dustin Hoffman
  • Hilary Swank
  • Michelle Williams
  • Adrian Brody
  • Daniel Day-Lewis
  • Kate Winslet

Method acting vs character acting 

Character acting refers to the type of acting that include eccentric, stylized roles. Method acting is realism based preparation applicable to all roles. Character actors can use the method acting technique as part of their preparation, however it is mostly associated with realistic, dramatic performances.

Lee Strasberg further developed the technique effectively creating “method acting.” His operating theory is that the actor should live the character he or she is playing even when not on stage or in front of the camera. This is why many method actors refuse to break character until filming is over. The lengths they go to embody the role often become obsessive involving serious weight loss, a change in sleeping habits and dietary norms, and more.

Famous method actors with examples

Method acting is a type of acting that yields such incredible performances, the audience gets completely lost in the worlds of the character. How does an actor prepare for this level of performance, for some actors, the performance of their entire life?

An Oscar win is always a nice reward, but of course, not the only. And the madness that surrounds method acting is real and often frightening. Below are a few examples of actors who prepared so extensively, their performances help define the technique itself.

Marlon Brando

One of the original method actors. To prepare for The Men, Brando stayed in a hospital bed for an entire month to get in the mindset for the injured veteran he’d be playing. In Brando’s best films, he doesn’t seem to be acting at all but embodying the character.

Robert De Niro

De Niro is known to do whatever is necessary to truthfully convey his character. He’s faithful to the method and we can see that in many of his films. For Taxi DriverDe Niro worked 12-hour shifts and would pick up passengers in New York City during breaks on set. It is this kind of dedication that comes across in the best De Niro movies.

For Raging Bull, De Niro went through a significant physical transformation for the film’s last act. Production on the film shut down for months while De Niro gained close to 70 pounds. In this clip, he explains why it was important to him to actually gain the weight.

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